The WHO just announced that the Omicron variant is a new “variant of concern.”

Will it be like Delta on crack, or just plain wack (i.e., more fear mongering)? Here’s what we know, LIVE.
Transcript Below

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– [Zubini] All right, what’s up everyone? It’s Dr. Z. It is, what? November 26th, Black Friday. We’re turning Black Friday brown, people. It’s about 3:40 Pacific time. I wanna talk about Omicron. I mean, could they name it any more like a Decepticon? Like is it a Transformer or is it a heavily mutated coronavirus variant? Let’s talk about this because it’s been all over the news, it was recently discovered via South African scientists.

Where it originated we don’t exactly know. The panic is already at the disco as far as the press goes, it’s all over the news, travel bans, the tip… Do you remember last time this year? Delta. No, it wasn’t Delta. It was Alpha. Oh my God, Alpha. We’re all gonna die. Then Delta came. Now Delta… Ah, Delta was pretty transmissible. So Delta did some real damage in the world. So where is this on the spectrum?

So we’re gonna talk about what Omicron is as a variant, what’s the deal with South Africa and why are we hating on the country that had the scientists to discover it and now is gonna suffer from travel bans? Is this thing dangerous like Delta or more dangerous? Is it gonna resist vaccines? Is it gonna resist therapeutics? Is it gonna resist people with previous natural immunity? These are all the questions that you want to answer. And the truth is we don’t have a ton of data, but we have enough that we can at least have this discussion. So let’s do it. Welcome, everyone, to the show.

All right, we’re doing it live because I’m trying to create a train wreck here. All right, so this whole thing came to a head when South African scientists, they do a, apparently do a lot of genotyping, actually sequencing the infection cases in South Africa, and Botswana as well, and it’s unclear where this thing originated but they discovered it just in the last couple of weeks, I think, and then started ringing alarm bells.

Because what they noticed was that in a country where the cases had actually ebbed a bit, they’ve had waves, right? The vaccination rate is something like 20%, it’s very low, which we’re gonna talk about. And so cases had been low with the natural ebb and flow of things with Delta and now suddenly cases were rising again and they were like, “Wait, almost all the cases in the Johannesburg area are this new variant that has roughly 32 mutations in the spike protein relative to the original Wuhan strain.” And just so you know, this is not, it does not appear to be a descendant of Delta. In other words, it’s not a further set of mutations within Delta, it’s a different lineage entirely from what we know so far that’s been reported. So 32 mutations in the spike protein.

The spike protein is important because that’s the protein that we generate antibodies to, either in response to natural infection, we develop antibodies, and those antibodies bind to the spike protein and allow the human immune system to take that virus out of action. You also generate antibodies, polyclonal antibodies, meaning antibodies to multiple parts of the spike protein, from vaccination. And because it’s polyclonal it’s very hard to evade vaccine immunity as a variant because you have to have a lot of mutations. Well this one actually does, it has about 32. The other thing that is important with looking at mutations in spike protein is that we have these therapeutics called monoclonal antibodies. And these are antibodies that are to specific sites on spike protein.

And it’s actually easier to evade those with variations because they’re more tailored, they’re not polyclonal, all over the spike protein. Now that’s just the antibody response, right? There are other aspects of the immune system that happen with natural and with vaccine immunity that are mediated by other cells of the immune system called T cells. That’s more complicated to test. It takes longer, it’s a little more complex. And so you can have actually resistance where antibodies don’t bind but still have some immunity from your T-cell response.

And this is very important because that just makes the whole immune system very complicated and so understanding the prime question here, which is, is this variant more infectious and/or does it evade previous immunity, whether natural immunity or vaccines? Becomes a question that the scientists are now testing. And WHO just today named it a variant of concern meaning now all these resources are going into figuring out what’s going on.

Now, of course, the first knee jerk response is to shut down all travel to all these African countries, which are already suffering. Which, like in the case of South Africa, I have friends in South Africa who are supporters of the show, they’re physicians and other healthcare professionals, they’ve been through hell during this pandemic, they were begging for vaccines while we were shitting them away here in the United States with people who are refusing them, they’re begging for them, right? The rich countries hoard them and these countries don’t get them.

Then what happens? You have unmitigated viral replication in populations, which is what generates variants by the way. It’s not the vaccines that generate the variants, Geert Vanden Bossche and Bret Weinstein and these guys that have been saying this. Look at the proof in the pudding where this variant’s coming from. The southern part of Africa, most likely, where they’re… In Africa there’s 6% vaccination overall. So can we stop with that already? So back to South Africa, travel bans instantly because people are panicked about this variant because, “Well, is it spreading really quickly in South Africa?

And this and that and the other thing.” And so they shut everything down. Now what my friends are there are telling me is that not only have vacations been canceled, okay, tourism’s been canceled to those countries, especially South Africa, which is, this is their prime tourist season. So businesses crushed, you’re making the poor poorer, which is exactly what we’ve done this entire pandemic. Our world, governments that are purportedly there to take care of citizens do nothing of the sort. The rich get richer, they seclude themselves, they yell at people to stay home, they have their parties unmasked, and then they tell essential workers double and triple mask while we eat in your restaurant with no mask on and so on and so forth. And then we put travel bans on South Africa.

Listen, this variant has already been detected in Belgium and Hong Kong and Israel, and that’s just ’cause they’re testing. Do you think we’re even testing in the U.S. for this thing? Genotyping it? It’s everywhere, you guys. If it’s been spreading in South Africa. So what good will a travel ban do? Even if the thing is a legit variant of concern where it’s actually gonna cause trouble what good is that gonna do except for damage the populations of those countries? We’re really good at figuring out big picture stuff. Really good at not operating out of fear. Really good. Really good at not hurting our most vulnerable citizens.

That’s what we’re really good at. If you can’t detect the sarcasm you need to go watch the Dr. Oz Show or something concrete. Okay, so back to this, I gotta calm myself down. Let’s look at this particular variant and decide what’s going on based on what we know now, which is incomplete, right? So we can’t make predictions but we can at least understand and understand how we can think about it from a holistic integral perspective, an Alt-Middle kind of perspective, looking at all what we know. All right, so first of all what we do see is it seems to spread quickly in South Africa. Now that’s of unclear significance, because if cases were already low from Delta it’s not clear that it’s out competing Delta.

It may just be there was a lull in Delta and this thing had a couple super spreader events by stochastic probability, by luck, it actually became very quickly dominant. Maybe it’s, you know, about as contagious or has an R-naught, a reproductive number, where each person it’s effected and it effects a certain number of people that’s similar to Delta so it spreads quickly that way. And so it’s not entirely clear that this is something that you should panic over because we don’t have enough data, right? If it ends up in a place where Delta is hanging out it may be that Delta will kick its ass, right? We don’t know, in which case it doesn’t really matter to us. Do you guys remember Beta? Do you guys remember Gamma? Do you guys remember Mu?

The other letters of the Greek alphabet that everyone was panicked about and freaking out about and sending me a thousand emails about? Yeah, I don’t either because they never really gained a strong foothold out of where they originated in force. Whereas Delta did, Delta had that juice of reproductive capacity where it really, really… And that’s why even in the setting of vaccines the herd immunity threshold goes up, up, up, up, up because the reproductive number of that virus is so high that you have to vaccinate 90 plus percent of the population, and there’s very few places on Earth that have done that. So that being said, so we don’t know really how relative to Delta it is in terms of infection.

Now the other possibility is, apart from reproducibility, how easily it spreads, the other possibility is that it actually evades preexisting immunity. So with all these mutations in spike protein, which, by the way, variants happen, that’s just what an RNA virus, which has a very error prone reproductive capacity, they create variants, they just do, especially when they’re allowed to reproduce en masse, which they’re doing in parts of the world that are under vaccinated. So in those settings you’re gonna generate mutants and you’re gonna generate variants. And that’s just how viral evolution works. Can we live with that? This virus is endemic, it’s already with us forever. It’s not getting eradicated. So all this COVID zero stuff, just shut up about it, it’s not gonna happen.

All right? So we have to figure out how to live with this virus. So how do we live with new variants? That’s what we’re trying to figure out talking about this. So if you look at this particular variant you can then go, “Okay, is it actually resisting the antibodies that have been made already from people who’ve been previously infected? And is it resisting vaccines?” Resisting meaning it can evade them and actually reproduce enough to cause disease and cause infections and potentially cause severe disease. Now that’s the question that scientists are looking at because we don’t know the answer. In computer models, maybe. They think, right?

But how good are these computer models? Come on, dude. If the computer models were right we’d already, there’s so many things that would have happened that have not happened. So I think we can just shut up about the computer models and actually look at what’s going on in the real world. So how are they studying this? Well there’s in vitro stuff where you can actually look at the viral dynamics with antibodies that you give from serum of people who are vaccinated. The vaccine companies are gonna be doing this. You can look at epidemiologic studies where you’re looking at, “Okay, we see what it’s doing in South Africa, what’s it gonna do when it shows up in other countries? Is it gonna spread like wildfire or is it not? Are we gonna see it start to overtake Delta?

In which case that’s a serious piece of news.” But even then we’ll talk about that. Like, what do you do about that? First of all, you don’t panic. Like the seed of anxiety that this thing is sowing, judging by the emails I’ve gotten, like, people are panicked. It’s been a day. They’re like, “Can you please say something about this?” It’s like, “Calm down.” I can say that for sure. Because whatever you think it is, there’s ways to think about this that will alleviate your anxiety so at least you understand what’s happening. It doesn’t mean it might not end up being very contagious and cause trouble, but we have to understand it. Okay, so is it evading vaccines? Is it evading natural immunity? We don’t know. Why is it spreading faster? Again, we talked about that. The big questions are severe disease.

So does this particular variant, with all its mutations, is it as virulent or more virulent, does it cause more severe disease, which is what we actually care about, in humans than the previous strains? And if the answer is yes then that’s a concern. Right? We don’t know the answer yet. It may actually not do that. It may cause the same amount of severe disease. Right? With Delta, it’s still not clear. Like it’s very contagious, so viral loads can be high, so that can correlate to higher disease, but if you’re in a highly vaccinated population then severe disease is gonna be less. If you’re in a population that’s had a lot of natural infection and this thing doesn’t evade antibodies then severe disease is gonna be less. So you see all these things relate. Does it evade antibodies? Is it more infectious, meaning higher viral loads, easier to be infected with a high viral load? And then is there something about the new spike protein conformation that’s more damaging in terms of severe disease? We don’t know the answer, but that’s what we care about. Another question is, does it infect children more easily?

‘Cause we’d wanna kind of get to the bottom of that. And if it does, we only care if it causes severe disease. I’ll be honest, I don’t care about children infecting old people because old people should be vaccinated and boosted. Okay? If you decided not to do that… Now there are some people who are immunocompromised, some people with organ transplants, some people who, for whatever reason, can’t be vaccinated, that’s a different population. And, again, you cannot create a public policy around a small group of people, you have to do the most good for the most people with the least harm.

But those people who can be vaccinated should have been vaccinated. If they decided not to we cannot paralyze the world economy and our way of life because some people decided to make a choice that I actually think is the wrong choice. You can make that choice but we’re not gonna change our shit for you. Okay? So if kids are more infectious but they don’t get hurt as much by it it doesn’t really matter if they infect grandma because grandma should’ve gotten her damn vaccine. That’s the way I see that. That’s the way I think about it. Now you can come at me and say, “No, that’s not true.” But that’s the way I think about it. Or grandma’s already been infected and she’s okay, she’s got natural immunity, I’m down with that too. All right? Can we use some common sense, maybe?

All right, so that being said, kids is an issue. The other question is, does the vaccine evade our testing? Because if you have enough mutation on the spike you can theoretically evade our ability to detect it with our current PCR technology. Now I had David Persing from Cepheid, the big company that does a lot of this PCR testing, they’re kind of a pioneer in the space, on here talking about that and he said the way they do these redundant testing protocols with PCR you would have to have a butt ton of change in that thing and a lot of bad luck to evade PCR. And it looks like we’re still catching it on the testing. So I don’t think that’s an issue with Omicron. Or Decepticon. The other question is the therapeutics, so the Pfizer pill that’s coming out, the the Merck pill that’s coming out, molnupiravir, are these gonna be as effective as they’ve been in the trials against Delta and Alpha, will they be effective against this? That’s a question that’s outstanding.

Right? Because listen, listen, we have vaccines, once we have pills, we have monoclonals, which we’ll talk about, this thing’s endemic, okay? Stop talking about lockdowns, stop talking about closing schools, stop talking about masking two-year-olds, stop talking… Just stop it. Go back to life. This thing is going to be endemic. Treat cases, prevent them with vaccine, test when people have symptoms and move on. That’s my stance on this. And you can disagree, and you can be a good person and disagree, and you can be angry, but please don’t paint me as some kind of evil villain who’s trying to kill you because I’m not. I hold a different stance on this based on my review of the data and also the values that I hold about this. Right? I think there are fates worse than death. I do.

And destroying poor people, destroying our youth and their education, destroying the economies of countries that can’t afford it, destroying our own economy for a virus that preferentially hurts old people, people with comorbidities, that we could protect, we have a vaccine, we have, we’re gonna have therapeutics. Now the other question with this particular, Omicron, is monoclonal antibodies, will they work? And that remains to be seen. Because when you have this many mutations it’s hard to know whether those are gonna work. Now remember the virus can only mutate so much before it hurts itself. So there’s a limit to what it can do. And you know, some suspect, and I’m in this camp, that this virus is gonna push up against its limit pretty soon because Delta is so, so good at what it does to get better than Delta it’s hard to do without actually harming the virus. Now we’ll see if Omicron can do that. That’ll be interesting.

Now, so the big picture question then is should you worry about this thing, right? And this is how I think I formulate it so far. Okay, we have a newly discovered variant in an area where they’re testing carefully. We have the punitive measures of travel bans to those countries just because they tested for it. The thing’s already everywhere, guaranteed. Guaranteed it’s all over the place. Right? Travel bans will slow it down, but they will damage those economies. Okay. Is the thing gonna worry you and grandma? Well if it escapes vaccines what can they do? Well they can revamp the vaccines. That’s a beautiful thing about the mRNA vaccines, and the J&J, change the code, revamp, give another booster. Another booster. You can do it, right?

But I don’t know. I don’t know that we’re gonna see that. It might go the way of Mu and Gamma and Beta and be a nothing burger. Right? So all the panic and all the stock market’s crashing and all that, look, humans are gonna do human psychology stuff and the contagion of anxiety and panic has the highest R-naught of any contagion on the planet, even measles, which is like 14, one person infects 14. Yeah? Anxiety contagion on social media?

Almost undefined, it’s so high. So what do we do? Hey, guess what? The answers are still the same as they’ve been. You should probably get vaccinated if you’re worried at all about coronavirus and you haven’t been naturally infected. If you’ve been naturally infected and it was a long time ago you may wanna get at least one dose of the mRNA vaccines. If you’re really worried, if you’re like a panicky panicker all you have to do, if you’ve had two doses of a vaccine, is get a booster, which are now like everywhere, which I disagree with, but, ’cause most people don’t need ’em. ‘Cause what the booster does, it doesn’t really necessarily jazz up your T-cell immunity, which is this longer last… and your memory B-cell with longer lasting immunity, it tops off your neutralizing antibodies.

So even if that new variant is resistant to those antibodies you can overpower the resistance a lot of times with high antibody titers. And so that’s where a booster, if we see Omicron show up in the U.S. and it starts spreading like wildfire, everybody go out and get a booster who’s been vaccinated already. The unvaccinated people are already, you just better go get vaccinated, right? But if you get that booster then you’ll have high enough levels that you may well be okay. So that’s a rationale for a booster that isn’t there yet because we don’t know anything about this Omicron, right?

But that’s something you can think about. Now in the meantime though boosters really only makes sense for people over 50 with comorbidities or over 65, ’cause those are people where the waning immunity is a real scenario with even severe disease. ‘Cause that’s what we really care about is severe disease. Otherwise this thing is gonna be with us, we’re gonna be infected every year, it’s gonna be like a cold and so infections are less important than severe disease, period. That’s just basically it. And the last thing I wanna say is let’s stop punishing South Africa and these countries because they’re good about the science. Like, it’s crazy. All right? We all know like this thing spreads quickly, no matter what. So putting a draconian travel ban, it’s just like doing a lockdown. Like Germany’s talking about doing a lockdown now ’cause their cases are rising. It’s like, just vaccinate as many people as you can ’cause your rates are still not at anything close to the nineties, right? Do that. And if you don’t wanna get vaccinated, fine. That’s totally fine. Just you’re gonna deal with the consequences.

The only problem is our healthcare system also has to deal with the consequences of it. But you know what, that’s just how it is. That’s just how it goes during a pandemic. Again, there are fates worse than these things. For example, destroying our social fabric, creating more polarity, having a backlash against childhood vaccinations, which is exactly what will happen when you put in draconian mandates for things, people feel like their control’s been taken away, they feel like they’re being nanny stated to death, they’re being condescended to by Public Health apparatus that couldn’t pull their head out of their ass in the beginning.

CDC didn’t even allow other companies to do testing. We were hobbled from the beginning with our legendary CDC, which has basically sucked balls during the entire thing. I’m getting a little emotional, I’m not entirely accurate, but roll with me on this. We tell, you know, we do this hygiene theater where you have to wear a mask walking into a restaurant for the first three steps until you sit down, then you take it off. Like, how does that make sense? We close schools for like a year, we’re masking like three-year-olds, like that’s gonna work, with cloth masks which probably don’t do much at all. Like if you’re gonna do it use surgical masks or N95s. Like… I just feel like we’ve lost all common sense.

And then you have the news reporting, “Omicron,” and all blood and goo and death and… I don’t know, guys. In the end, it doesn’t matter because when it’s man versus nature, nature often will do its thing and man’s just gotta kind of roll with it. That means, you know, little vaccine here, little social distancing there, little hand-washing here, little masking when it’s appropriate, right, and a little calm the fuck down. That’s what we need. Let’s take some questions. “Team J&J here, I didn’t get Rona while the wife on Moderna did.” Wow, interesting, Tinker. I, you know, again, it’s hard to know. Everybody’s immune system’s different, the vaccines interact with them differently. They’re all very, very different. And, “Doctor, please,” says Mitch Booshie, “change the subject. What’s the weather like at your place?” It’s beautiful today. I went on a four mile hike. It was gorgeous. Black Friday, I didn’t get online at all until basically right now.

One thing I will say is what I learned recently on a meditation retreat is none of this really matters that much. We feel like we have all this control, we feel like others are controlling us, we feel… So we have all this distorted perception about our agency in the world. Whereas in reality, life is a process. The universe is just happening and unfolding and we’re there as awareness for the ride. Let’s enjoy the ride. Let’s be good to other people and love them as they are ourselves because they are. Let’s have a little less division, a little more presence. A little more presence with ourselves, with our loved ones, with our children. A little less social media, a little less news. And I think we’d all be a lot happier. And actually the kind of spontaneous action we would take in the present moment would often be the right spontaneous action because it would come from deep intuition and presence instead of from the madness of our thought identified brain.

All right, guys, that’s it. I’m, you know what? I’m done. That’s it. That’s all I wanna talk about this. Share the video. If you like what we do and you wanna dig more into the meditation mindfulness side of things, like I do, I don’t care about COVID at all, I really don’t, but I care about my responsibility to try to talk about it in a way that counters the insanity that we hear and read every day. If you wanna dig into that stuff join our Supporter Tribe. It’s like five bucks a month, dude. And look, that pays for all this, it supports our show, so I don’t have to do dumb sponsorships and sell on to stupid people and pitch fucking prostate supplements.

You know? I don’t have to do that because you guys fund the show. Just go to You can do it on Facebook, YouTube and Locals. Locals is my favorite because it’s off the social media grid. They take a very small portion of your fees unlike Facebook and YouTube that take 30 effing percent. They notify you, you can post there yourself, it’s a beautiful group that has these lovely, high level discussions that are kind to each other, they feel like a family. So join us there. All right, guys, I love you so much. Don’t panic about Omicron. Let’s watch it carefully. I’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

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